TRIP 2014

Update #06 - March 15
Americus, Georgia
2,170.91 miles (3,473.46 KM)

I am four or five cycling days away from Savannah, Georgia. Once there, I'll be heading North to the New York City area.

March 06 : Saltillo, Mississippi to Amory, Mississippi - 40.17 miles (64.27 KM)

I didn't sleep much last night. I guess it was the anticipation of heading out in the morning. I thought I was going to put in an all-nighter but I fell asleep around 2 am. I slept till around 6 am. Once it got light, I got cleaned up, dressed, and I got Alice packed up. I had Alice packed up by 7:30 AM. I went upstairs for breakfast. My friend, Jen, had packed some brownies for me.

I left the house around 8:30 am. It was cold in the lower 40s. It's not supposed to get above 50 today. There was some drizzle in the air. 50% to 70% of rain today. I backtracked 7 miles (11 km) on the Nathez Trace Parkway to West Main Street in Tupelo. On the way through Tupelo, I stopped at the headquarters of the American Family Association. I wasn't able to talk with Tim Wildman because he was already in the radio station getting ready for his show. I did talk to a few of the people there.

I rode back into the downtown area and got on MS 145 heading South. I made pretty good time. I got about 23 miles (37 km) in by noon. At Nettleton, I got on MS 6 to Amory. On the outskirts of Amory, I rode across the Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway. There was a lock and dam system.

I arrived in Amory around 1:45 pm. I called up my contact at the FUMC. The pastor was actually in Tupelo on a hospital visit. I wandered around the downtown area for a little bit. I stopped to check out a refurbushed steam locomotive and coal car. Amory is switching yard for the Frisco Railroad. I waited a couple of hours at the church for the pastor to come back. The pastor's secretary made sure that I had plenty of chocolate chip cookies and orange juice while I waited. The pastor had arranged a home visit with a guy who had a jail/ prison ministry. I was not to good of accomondations so the pastor offered me to stay in one of the Sunday school classes for the night. I was invited to the parsonage for a good meal. Before going to the church, I had fun with the pastor's three kids.

March 07 : Amory, Mississippi to Jasper, Alabama - 77.06 miles (123.30 KM)

It was so nice being warm. The room was warm enough that I didn't crawl into the sleeping bag. I went to bed around 10 pm and I woke up around 5 am. It was pretty light. Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday morning. There was cake and orange juice for breakfast.

I thought that I would go ahead and head out around 7 am. I was a little concerned by being there might conflict with a daycare at the church. I didn't want to have somebody call the police on me like what happened in Sulphur, LA. On the way out of town, I stopped to say goodbye to the pastor and also to Chris. Chris surprised me by slipping me a $20 GH. It was quite foggy so I took my time heading out of town. I stopped to take some pictures of an old steam tractor and other steam engines. There was a neat steam powered wood chainsaw. I did some shopping on the way out of town.

When I got outside from the store, the fog was gone. It was rolling hills to get up to the top of the ridge. There was a good coast to the AL state line. I rode a little over 18 miles (29 km) in Mississippi. From the state line, it was about a 6 mile (10 km) ride to Sulligent. It was too early in the day to stop so I decided to try and get to Jasper.

By noon, I got 31 miles (50 km) in by noon time. I stopped for a late lunch in Guin. After lunch, I accidently headed North by mistake instead of heading East. I found this mistake about a mile out of town after climbing up a long hill. I had to backtrack about a mile and a half (2.5 km) to get to the turn that I should have made.

Once on the right road, MS 118, the ride went really well. I was making some good time until I got to the Walker County line. There was a long hill to climb up to Elkridge. I rode through town to Carbon Hill. It was getting dark around 5 pm because the setting sun was being blocked by some clouds. I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to get into Jasper by dark.

About 4 miles (6 km) out of Jasper, these two guys in a truck stopped to see if I needed any assistance. I didn't know that MS 118 was going to join US 78, which was a restricted access highway, for a couple of miles. The guys took me into town to where a couple of motels were. We weren't sure that there were any open rooms in town because there was a bass fishing turnament in the area. There was an older motel but it was run by Indians. Next door was a Super 8. The desk clerk gave me a 10% discount on a room. Before the driver of the truck left, he slipped me $30 towards the cost of the room.

I'm going to get through Birmingham tomorrow. My goal is to try and make it to Childersburg (78 miles (125 km) away). If I can't make it, I'll probably find a place to camp out. There is going to be a climb between Birmingham and Chelsea (Brasier Gap).

March 8 : Jasper, Alabama to Chelsea, Alabama - 64.53 miles (103.25 KM)

It was so nice being warm again at night. I'm really happy that the two guys had stopped to pick me up even though they sort of ran me off the road when they came up beside me. I didn't know that MS 118 connected with a restricted access of US 78. The guys had to have been drinking but they put the beer into the back of the truck. The guy who was driving told me that he had one beer but he was active in his church. When he got to a spot where there were two motels (a Super 8 and a Budget Inn), the guy went inside both motels to find out the rates. He was able to get a 10% discount on the room at the Super 8. He also slipped me $30 for the room. This covered about 3/4 of the room. The room at the Super 8 was good. I probably wouldn't have gotten as nice of the room next door at the Budget Inn, which was an older motel and run by an Indian. I woke up around 5 am. There was a pretty good free breakfast. I was able to pack up some of the muffins to take along.

I left the motel around 7:30 am. The temperature was a little cool in the 40s but it was supposed to get up into the 60s in the afternoon. Once passed MS 69, there was a steady climb up to the top of Gardiners Gap and then it was a downhill run to Union Gap. At the top of Gardiners Gap, I stripped down just to my cycling jersey. It's been a long time since I've been able to ride just in my jersey. The ride was pretty level to Lynns Park and then it was rolling hills to Graysville. Because of the rolling hills, I was only able to make 26 miles (42 km) by noon. I stopped for lunch in Graysville. I was going to stop in Forestdale but the motels there were pretty bad.

I started to ride through Birmingham once I crossed into the Pratt City area. It was really tricky getting through the section of highway between Prat City and East Thomas. The shoulder disappeared and there was a lot of traffic. There were several long bridges to cross (one over a large railroad switchyard), getting through the I-20, and then up a long hill. There was a long downhill run into an economically depressed area before I got into the downtown area. I rode passed a homeless shelter.

In the downtown area, I got off US 78 and then I headed South on 20th Street South. Just passed Five Points South, there was a really long and steep climb about 8% up to the top of a ridge line at Vulcan Park. At the top, I stopped to take a few pictures of the large statue of Vulcan. There was a good downhill run down to Rosedale Ave. Just passed US 31, I got on US 280. The next goal was to get up and over The Narrows, which was another ridge line.

I got into Mountain Brook just about at dusk. I was hoping to find a motel room but the motels that I rode passed were very high-priced. I started the long climb up Brasier Gap in the dark. I turned all of my lights on and I got my helmet light out. At least, there was a shoulder to walk along that separated me from the traffic. I looked for a place to camp out but there wasn't any because there was a steep drop off to the West and a steep hill to the East. There was a tricky coast down the other side of the ridge in the dark through Little Narrows to Chelsea. There were no motels in Chelsea.

I stopped for a break at a gas station. This guy came up to talk to me. The guy seemed pretty interested in what I was doing. The guy asked me if I was raising money for some cause. When I told the guy that I minister, he told me that he was an athiest and then he pulled out his wallet and gave me $10. The thing that he told me was that he saw that I was actually doing something with my beliefs and not just producing a lot of hot air that he got from the Christians that he had come across. Before he left, he took quite a few pictures with his camera including one of the sign in back. He told me that he was going to check out my website. From the gas station, I rode about 3/4 of a mile (1 km) and stopped at a Winn Dixie that was still open to get some new batteries for my helmet light and also some cushioned in soles for my shoes. The bottom of my bike shoes are almost paper thin. Hopefully, they will last me until I can afford to get a new pair of shoes.

I got back on the road for a couple of miles. At least, traffic was light. I finally got into some open land and some woods. I followed an old logging road down a hill to some more flatter land at the bottom of the hill. It should be an okay night since it wasn't that cold. I'm going to be losing an hour's sleep because tomorrow morning around 2 am Daylight Savings Times starts. This is a good sign that Spring will soon come.

March 9 : Chelsea, Alabama to Sylacauga, Alabama - 27.33 miles (43.73 KM)

I had an okay night camping out. It didn't get too cold. Even with the change over to Daylight Savings Time, I got about 6 hrs of sleep. I got back on the road around 7:50 am. I stopped for a break at the gas station in Harpersville. There were a few rolling hills to Childersburg.

I got into downtown Childersburg around 10:36 am. The first church that I came to was the First Baptist Church. The service had started at 10:30 am. I parked Alice outside and I went inside. I just missed a couple songs. During the meet-n-greet, I met the pastor. Quite a few people came down to shake my hand. The sermon was okay. During the announcements near the end of the service, the pastor recognized me and I go to speak for a little over a minute. (my eleventh church).

After the service, the pastor offered to get me a room at a motel that they had done business with before on the Southern edge of town. I was supposed to ride ahead and tell the people to allow me to be checked in and say that the pastor would be by shortly with the check for the room. When I got to the motel, I found out that it was a low cost motel run by a family from India. The kid looked like he didn't speak very much English. When I told the lady what was going on, she wouldn't check me in and she told me that the pastor should have tried to call ahead. I tried the church phone number but all I got was an answering machine. I sat in one of the chairs to wait till the pastor showed up. I thought that the pastor was going to be coming soon since he said that he would be there shortly but after a wait of around forty minutes he didn't show up. While I was waiting, I heard some loud voices speaking farsi in the living quarters and occasionally somebody would come out to check on me. I was getting a little anxious and I was concerned that somebody might call the police on me. I waited another ten minutes for the pastor to arrive. I gave up waiting and I wrote a note for the pastor. I didn't know if the pastor brushed me off or not.

Before heading out of town, I stopped for a late lunch at a BK next door. The ride to Sylacauga went okay. It was a little before 4 pm when I got into downtown Sylacauga. I saw some activity at the First Baptist Church. On the church sign, I saw that there was going to be a men's Bible study starting up soon.

I was really invited to join the class. Alice was brought inside and put into a hallway. The black guy who was the leader was really friendly towards me. There were a little over three dozen men of all ages and races. I was given the chance to the guys. This was my twelfth church for the year. I was really surprised that there was an offer to get me a room at the old Jamison (new Quality) Inn. Also, I was surprised that they passed around a basket to collect a love offering for me. This was the first one for the year. The discipleship class was pretty good. The discussion was lively and I got to share a lot. This hasn't happened in a long while. The class lasted almost two hours. Instead of going to the concert in the sanctuary, two of the guys took me and Alice over to the Quality Inn. The guy, Steve, who checked me in surprised me by paying for two nights so that I could take a real rest day off the road.

There is a Captain D's close by and a shopping center across the street. I'll be riding to Alexander City tomorrow. Hopefully, I can connect with the assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church there.

March 10 : Sylacauga, Alabama to Sylacauga, Alabama - 00.00 miles (00.00 KM)

I had an okay night. There was a pretty good free breakfast. It's a little strange not thinking about heading out today. I went across the highway to the shopping center a couple of times. I was able to find a pair of tennis shoes and I got them for just $9 at a discount of $20. Hopefully, they will last me a while. I got them as a size 9 because they didn't have 8 1/2W.

I've got a short ride to Alexander City tomorrow. Hopefully, I can connect with the assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church. Last year, I had the chance to speak at the church.

March 11 : Sylacauga, Alabama to Alexander City, Alabama - 28.91 miles (46.26 KM)

I had an okay night even though I woke up early again. I took advantage of the free breakfast again. I decided to get on the road around 7:30 am. It was cool enough to wear a jacket but I was able to take it off around 10 am. There were several ridges to get over on the way to Alexander City.

I got into downtown Alexander City a little after noon. I stopped at a Sonics for lunch. From the Sonics, it was a short walk over to the First Baptist Church. I had some familiarity with the church because I spoke at the church last August. I got into the office around 12:50 pm. I was told that the assistant pastor that I knew was only in the office Wednesday afternoon and on Sundays. The senior pastor wouldn't be back until around 1:30 pm so I went outside to wait in the patio. Around 1:20 pm, the receptionist came out to tell me that there wasn't anything that the church could do for me. The family life center was being remodeled. She had called around to some of the local social service centers but they didn't have any ideas. She did suggest for me to go to the First United Methodist Church a couple of blocks away.

The people in the office of the FUMC were friendly. I got to meet the senior pastor. There was a pre-school at the church so I couldn't stay in the church. Kelly, one of the co-directors of the family life center "The Arbor", came over to the church. She was really friendly. She told me that it would have been okay for me to stay at the Arbor for the night but it would be really busy late because of some sports games in the gym. Instead, she offered to get me a room at one of the local motels. Kim got the facility manager Clay to get his truck and they took me to the American Inn. Before they left, Kelly gave me a green handshake so I could get some supper at a nearby Captain D's.

It's going to rain through the night. I might get wet tomorrow since a cold front is coming through. Tomorrow, the high will only be in the low 50s. The high Friday will be in the low 60s. Nine more days till Spring.

March 12 : Alexander City, Alabama to Opelika, Alabama - 45.31 miles (72.50 KM)

I had an okay night even though I woke up early again around 5 am. There was a decent cold breakfast of cereal and pastries. I decided to head out around 7:30 am. The sky was overcast and it looked like it was going to rain again. I took a short break at a gas station right before the bridge crossing Lake Martin. There were several long climbs to get up and over on the way to Dadeville.

I stopped at a gas station in Dadeville for a break. I had already gone inside to get something to drink. I was trying to find the shower cap that I had picked up a couple of days ago. It had started to sprinkle. As I was going through my panniers, a deputy sheriff stopped. He was going into the station to get something. He asked if I needed something to drink. When I told him that I had already purchased something, he slipped me a couple of dollars and told me to use it later on in the day if needed.

The hills became less the farther Southeast I get. I was still able to ride 27 miles (43 km) by noon. Depending on what county I was in, the shoulder was either smoothly paved or rough with chipseal. It was really hard getting up hills with chipseal. There was a narrow strip of paved roadway that was separated from the traffic lanes by white line. I rode along this edge whenever I could. Most of the traffic gave me clearance but some of the semis didn't give me much clearance.

Less than a quarter mile into the Opelika, a police car signaled me down with flashing blue lights. He told me that the station had gotten reports of me swerving into traffic. I told him that this wasn't the case and I needed to swerve a little bit to climb up hills and I had some problem with the rough shoulder. As we were talking another police officer stopped by with flashing lights. There was some concern but after I told them that I was a very defensive cyclist they let me go on my way.

I missed my turn into the downtown area. I stopped for some lunch and then I backtracked about a mile. I got into downtown Opelika around 2 pm. I stopped at the motel where I had stayed at last August. I got a room in the upper $20s. It was going to be close to freezing tonight and I wanted to make sure that I was inside someplace warm. I didn't want to do the church thing today. I remember the reception that I had gotten by the churches last August. The cold front is going to make the high tomorrow somewhere in the 50s. It will be getting back into the 60s over the weekend. I'm abou 30 miles away from Columbus, Georgia. When I cross the Georgia state line, I'll be crossing back into the Eastern Time Zone.

March 13 : Opelika, Alabama to Columbus, Georgia - 32.55 miles (52.08 KM)

I had an okay night even there was some light coming in from the bathroom window that didn't have a curtain or shade. I went to bed early and I slept till around 5 am.

It was a little cool in the low 40s when I headed out around 7:30 am. It was a little tricky getting back on US 280 because it joined the interstate for a couple of miles. Once on US 280, there was a little bit of shoulder. There were a few hills and then it either became downhill runs or level riding. A few miles out of Smith Station, the shoulder became taken up by a rumble strip. A mile out of Smith Station I switched over to Lee Cnty 430, which was old 280. The ride along the highway was nice. I got back on US 280 at the outskirts of Phenix City. I made around 27 miles (43 km) by noon. I stopped for some lunch at a BK.

After lunch, I switched from my planned route to take a less used bridge across the Chattahoochee River into downtown Columbus, Georgia. At the state line, I got back into the Eastern Time Zone. There wasn't a state sign to take a picture of.

I rode over to the First Presbyterian Church to see if my pastor friend was there. Rev Hasty pulled up a minute after I had rolled in. Rev Hasty was happy to see me again. It has been a little over six years since we last met. The church has a television ministry so Rev Hasty had his studio manager/ cameraman come out with a camera to interview me. The interview taping lasted about a half hour. Afterwards, Rev Hasty offered to get me a room at a nearby motel. There was also an invitation to speak at one of the church services.

Since there was about a two hour wait before I could check in, I wandered around the downtown area. I stopped to get interviewed at the Ledger-Enquirer. The interview went pretty well. Afterwards, I checked out some of the artwork on the main street. There was a bike shop downtown. I stopped to check out a bicycle contraption made for seven riders. The vehicle had four wheels, a round steering wheel for the driver who was had a separate seat and the other six drivers sat in a circle formation. I had originally been used at beach tourist centers like Panama Beach, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

I've got about a 35 mile (56 km) ride to Richland tomorrow.

March 14 : Columbus, Georgia to Richland, Georgia - 50.36 miles (80.58 KM)

I had a decent night even though I had problems with my netbook. Something happened to the power adapter. The little blue light that showed that the adapter was working started to flash and this flashing was causing the brightness of the screen to go bright and then go dim. I was concerned that the adapter would do something really bad with netbook so I shut it down. I hate to think about it but I've got to get a new power adapter. I checked out the phone book and I found a computer repair shop on the same road as I was but the shop was quite a few miles North of me. Hopefully, the motel wouldn't cost much. I don't have much in my emergency stash.

Around 8:30 pm, I thought that I heard some loud noise outside that sounded like gun or cannon fire. I'm several miles North of US Army Fort Camp Benning but I didn't think I would hear any noise from there and I didn' think that they would have night maneuvers. When I looked outside, I saw that there were fire works going off across the river. There was an air show in the this weekend called "Thunder In The Valley".

I went to bed around 10 pm and I woke up around 5 am. There was a decent free breakfast but there wasn't any hot food. It was around 39 when I left the motel around 8 am. I took me about an hour to ride the five miles to the shopping center where the computer store was supposed to be. It took me a while finding the store. I was hoping that the adapter would cost less than $40 but the price was $54 before tax. I needed the adapter so I had to get it. It really took a bite into my emergency funds.

It was almost 10 am when I got to where I had started out. A couple of miles down the highway, I stopped to take some pictures of a civil war ship that had side paddlewheels. It was a long and slow ride through the Fort Benning area because of some hills. At least there was some shoulder but it disappeared when I crossed into another county. Rumble strips started but instead of being at the edge of the white line it was halfway across the shoulder. I got around 21 miles (34 km) by noon. I stopped along side the road for a lunch break. By noon, I was able to take my jacket off.

The rest of the ride to Richland was okay but there were still some hills to cross over but I switched from riding along woods on both sides to riding passed some fields. It was around 4:50 pm when I got into the Richland area.

I rode around the small town and I stopped at the First Baptist Church because the parsonage was next door. I had about a 40 minute wait for the minister to come back from picking up his wife from work. He told me that he couldn't help me because he was no longer the pastor of the church. They were in the process of moving away. I decided to backtrack to a motel that I had passed on my way into town. Before going to the motel, I stopped at a gas station to get something cold to drink. I struck up a conversation with two black ladies. One of the ladies slipped me $5 in a green-handshake. She told me that she had passed me a couple of times on the road and she thought that I was doing something good. At the motel, I got a room in the upper $30.

I'm about 30 miles (48 km) away from Americus.

March 15 : Richland, Georgia to Americus, Georgia - 30.36 miles (48.58 KM)

I had a decent night. I was pleasanly surprised with the room considering what the outside of the motel looked like. I got about 6 hrs of sleep.

I left the motel a little after sunrise around 7:30 am. There were a couple more hills between Richland and Preston. I stopped for a break in Preston. The ride leveled out when I crossed into Sumter County. I rode passed fields ready to be planted either for cotton or peanuts. I stopped for another short break in Plains. I got 26 miles (42 km) in by noon.

I got into Americus around 1 pm. I rode to the motel in NW Americus where a minister made a reservation for me.

I'm going to the 9:30 am service at the Anglican church. I'm thinking about going on to Cordele after church. I might get wet. They are predicting storms in the afternoon.

The next trip update should be posted sometime between March 22nd and March 29th.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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